Even though I know that free speech carries a price, I tend towards First Amendment fanaticism, and I do not believe in restricting anyone’s free speech rights, no matter how obnoxious it is or how much I disagree with the views expressed. 

Still, I’m fascinated by the idea that a prolonged and raucous occupation of a building and indoor campout for the purpose of forcing compliance with political demands (with all the inevitable wear and tear and increased police costs that entails) constitutes “free speech” in the ordinary sense of the word. In Berkeley I saw many similar exercises in occupation over the years, the idea always being to wear down the opposition by a process of intimidation and attrition. This strikes me more as action than speech, and while it may be legal, I think it borders on extortion.

If a group of people want me to do something, and they ask me to do it, that is free speech. But if they surround my house and chant in order to wear me down, and physically block my driveway so that I cannot go about my business, that is not quite the same thing.

What’s even more annoying is the way the yellers and screamers carry on about how what they are doing constitutes “democracy.” A perfect example was provided by Ann Althouse, who was scolded as “rude” for taking pictures of demonstrators in front of the Veterans’ Monument that had been disrespected previously. As one protester (with a pronounced non-Wisconsin accent) explained, “the protesters are ‘trying to save’ democracy.”

I didn’t get to ask follow-up questions, but I think her point was to equate the protesters to the veterans and to make that a justification for piling sleeping bags and all sorts of junk up against the monument. I didn’t get to ask how trying to undo the results of the last election is an effort to “save democracy,” and, obviously, she wasn’t interested in having a conversation with me.

This country is not a democracy in the technical sense or the word. But even if we assume for the sake of argument that it is, democracy means majority rule. A majority elected Governor Walker, and a majority can vote him out of office if they don’t like the way he has stood up to the unions. That’s the democratic way of doing things.

How do tactics such as occupying a building, messing up a veterans’ monument and behaving like obnoxious thugs “save” the principle of majority rule? 

I don’t think the people who make such a claim understand what democracy is. Nor do they understand what free speech is. For not only does what they’re doing go beyond mere speech, but they have zero tolerance for free speech when it disagrees with them.

Unless they think democracy means a loud and shrill minority getting their way by tyrannizing the majority, I’m not getting how they’re saving it. 

Like, my yelling and screaming and occupying a building until I get my way saves democracy, but your taking a picture of me is rude?

And if you disagree with me, you’re against democracy?

I suspect that if the very issue they’re steamed up about — collective bargaining by state employees — were put to a majority vote, if the majority went against them they’d be doing exactly what they’re doing right now, and claiming to be saving democracy.